Beautiful swifts!

As many know, Huntly town Square is home to a colony of beautiful swifts who have been returning to nest, year after year for generations. When a large building like No.30 is home to swifts, it’s imperative that, when work is being done, measures are taken so that the swifts are protected to ensure their safety and survival. We are being assisted and advised in these measures by both an expert ecologist from Landcare Northeast, together with The Huntly and District Swift Group, who will be monitoring the process during the whole construction period. We’re very grateful for this invaluable support as its helps the contractors and HDT implement what has to be done to make sure all is well with this precious species.

Cally Smith from The Huntly and District Swift Group has provided the following update on No.30 swift protection;

Here is a brief update on an exciting project we are involved with in the ‘birth place’ of the Huntly & District Swift Group! This is a listed building which is home to an extremely active swift colony which I have been surveying since 2017. The regeneration of this building to form a multi use community facility is going to be extensive and will span possibly a couple of swift breeding seasons.

The scaffold and wrap is now installed as you can see, and their are 10 Model 30 external boxes fitted to the scaffold to replicate exactly the position of the existing nest sites, plus a couple more boxes for good measure.

We will run two call systems one for each elevation to encourage the returning breeding swifts and can only pray they will take to their temporary accommodation. This kind of project has worked before in England and Europe so we can do no more but try. You can see these particular projects at The original nesting sites will be reinstated as is once that stage arrives, plus I hope we will be able to pop in a few more!

I am so very grateful to everyone involved with this, they have taken on board all my suggestions for mitigation and are very happy to work with us on protecting and further enhancing this very important colony. Huntly Development Trust and Bancon Construction are pulling out all the stops for our Aviators and i am so very thankful for the advice I received from Edward at Swift Conservation. The appointed ecologist Landcarenortheast is fully onboard and Aberdeenshire Council are looking at this project with great interest. It will become a precedent for future swift projects in the area.

Only time will tell if this is going to work and I know for sure with the help of some volunteers we will be keeping a close eye throughout the season. I will possibly have a tent set up outside all summer!!!

#savetheaviators #swiftconservation #huntlydevelopmenttrust #banconhomes #landcarenortheast

January 2022

A New Year and lots of work to do!

No.30 project contractors, Bancon, returned to site in unusually warm weather for January, having resolved the scaffolding set-up matters prior to the Christmas break so they’re now very busy working with the architects and the Design Team, preparing for the next stages of the work, internally and externally.

A great deal is currently being done by structural engineers around measurements for the steel that will be installed into the back right hand side of the building – the area which will contain the cinema/performance box. This, along with timber and damp work, and confirming many of the projects fine details, means that although the site looks quiet, it really isn’t, there’s a huge amount of crucial work taking place.

A community notice board containing photos and updates is planned for the exterior of the building to be attached to the barrier fencing on the frontage to the Square. This will provide an interesting insight into what’s going on inside as we’re all curious to know what’s happening behind the fencing, so this should be a good way of showing how the build is progressing.

We’re delighted that Bancon are keen to support our project photographer, Elaine Esson, to allow her access to the site at regular intervals during the process to take photographs to document the changes as they happen. This will create a very interesting resource for the future showing the details of the building and the historic features that have revealed themselves. Some of these photographs will appear on the external noticeboard for all to see, and hopefully, in time, the collection can be catalogued as part of Huntly’s history.

Bancon are currently working with our Protected Species specialists and Huntly Swift Group to ensure that nesting boxes and appropriate measures are taken to ensure that the returning swifts have suitable accommodation when they arrive, which isn’t far away now. We’re very grateful to Huntly Swift Group for their amazing help and advice in helping us to protect these important Huntly residents.

Meanwhile inside………

Many more features have been uncovered during the full strip-out of the building which have revealed a glimpse into what the interior would have looked like over 140 years ago.

All the walls of the ground and first floor original shop (the left hand side as viewed from the Square) were completely timber lined, floor to ceiling. Some of the ground floor front timber was partly painted (white) and probably had shelves fixed to it. The original shop floor was tiled with red and white tiled flooring which, with the painted shelves would have looked stunning when it was new.

Ground floor front shop

An extraordinary item was discovered boxed-in between the first and second floors – a very large plaster plinth which may have displayed a shop items or even a statue. Bancon took great care to remove this intact, including its very heavy frame so that it can be reinstated into the finished building. The photo below shows it lying on its face but gives you an indication of its size. Maybe someone knows what this was used to display? Please get in touch if you do. Ideas are welcomed for what this plinth could display in the future. It’s over five feet high with plaster cornicing, so there’s many possibilities – maybe something connected with Huntly’s historic figures?

This is the plinth showing its back, the curved top can be seen

The floors have all been removed from the back rear of the first floor in readiness for setting out the large steel framework for the cinema which has the effect of making the space, which was already large, seem vast.

The removal of the large amount of boxing in between ground and first floor had a huge impact on the atmosphere of the building – the large stained glass window now appears majestically sitting at height within the stone walls, and the atmosphere in this part of the building now feels like being transported back in time.

Some curious features have appeared which maybe local historians can shed light on, so more about that in the next post. Watch this space……..

Welcome to the Number 30 Blog

This blog will document the refurbishment of this beautiful building in Huntly town centre.

The eagerly awaited start of refurbishment work to Number 30 The Square, (former Cruickshanks building) has finally begun!

Whilst it probably feels like a long time since HDT purchased this building, it’s only a little over two years, during which time LDN Architects along with their Design Team have worked with HDT to design it, obtain Planning Permission, Listed Building consent and the Building Warrant then Tender for contractors. And crucially, significant funding has been secured in this time to carry out the work.

This complex process usually takes much longer than two years with numerous projects of this size taking many years to get to this point, so it’s great for the town that we’ve been able to get to this stage reasonably quickly.

The building schedule runs until December 2022, and then there will be a period for snagging and final fit-out, so its hoped that it will be fully ready in early Spring, 2023.

Through this blog, we will be able to regularly record the progress of the build with photos and information so everyone can see how the building work is developing.

Bancon Construction, who are carrying out the building work, have begun the full strip-out, which has revealed some of the fascinating history of this building, and a few surprises too. Old windows and door openings have been exposed, along with some well-preserved stonework to the wall of the former pend.

A Victorian stained-glass window has been revealed, which would have been in the original outside wall between the two buildings and inside the former pend. Although one pane is broken, this can be replaced, and the window kept in place.

Interesting items were found inside the walls which appear to have been placed there by builders around 1850, rather earlier than the datestone on the building of 1875. These artifacts will be re-installed in displays when the centre is completed.

The small figure is known as Frozen Charlotte, or sometimes they were called, Penny dolls. The name Frozen Charlotte apparently came from an American ballad about a little girl who was going to a Ball and didn’t want to cover up her pretty party dress with a coat, so she froze to death on the carriage ride. A little macabre, but historically quite fascinating. Only one is perfectly preserved, others were found to have missing pieces. The stone marbles are probably Victorian too.

Quite a large collection of very tiny (dolls house?) teapots, jugs and plates were inside the walls too and amazingly, even the teapot lids were preserved. These are only about 2cm high.

Over time, as the building was altered, spaces were enclosed, but the strip-out revealed a small hidden cupboard along with its brass coat hooks and wood panelling, giving a small vision of what the building would have looked like over 145 years ago.

More to follow soon…